Information about: National Library Week and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

National Library Week is a recurring event that happens once each year in April. This year the event will be the week of April 3rd through the 9th.  This blog will look at the origins of the event, library facts and figures, a brief overview of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, and highlighted items from ILA to help the visually impaired make the most out of reading this week and every other week of the year. Information for this article was obtained from National Library Week Press Kit, Actress and comedian Molly Shannon to serve as 2022 National Library Week honorary chair, Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries – January 2019, Information about the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, and the ILA website.

History of National Library Week

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and observed in libraries across the country each April. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate.

In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee’s goals were ambitious.  They ranged from “encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time” to “improving incomes and health” and “developing strong and happy family life.”  With the cooperation of ALA and with help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”

National Library Week celebrations include the release of ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report, April 4; National Library Workers Day, April 5; National Library Outreach Day, April 6; Take Action for Libraries Day, April 7; and the celebration of School Library Month throughout April.

The 2022 Honorary Chair is none other than actress and comedian Molly Shannon who states, “I am so honored to serve as honorary chair of National Library Week for 2022. My mom was a librarian. She encouraged kids to read. So, the work of librarians and libraries has such a special place in my heart,” Shannon said. “Libraries are places where communities connect—to things like broadband, computers, programs and classes, books, movies, video games, and more. But most importantly, libraries connect us to each other. Supporting National Library Week in this role allows me to connect to my mother’s memory and all the librarians out there. Thank you for everything you do.” 

Quotable Facts about American Libraries

  • The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 167 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves, which would span roughly the distance from The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • Libraries play a critical role in the happiness of Americans. Communities that spend more on libraries, parks and highways are shown to support the well-being of community members.
  • Americans go to public libraries more often than they go to the movies.
  • There are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S. – a total of 16,568, including branches. Nearly 100% of public libraries provide Wi-Fi and have no-fee access to computers.
  • There were 113 million attendees at public library programs in 2016, more than all Major League Baseball, National Football League, and NBA games combined. That’s 16.5 million more than in 2013.
  • Students in high-poverty schools are almost twice as likely to graduate when the school library is staffed with a certified school librarian.
  • 100% of public libraries offer access to the Internet
  • 98% of public libraries offer free Wi-Fi
  • 90% help patrons with basic Internet skills
  • 97% help people complete online government forms
  • 9 out of 10 libraries offer access to e-books

National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, administers a free national library program that provides braille and recorded materials to people who cannot see regular print or handle print materials. Established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, in 1966 to include individuals with other physical disabilities that prevent reading regular print, and in 2016 to permit NLS to provide refreshable braille displays. The NLS program is funded annually by Congress, and books and materials are mailed as “Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped” through a separate appropriation to the United States Postal Service. Cooperating network libraries are funded through a combination of state, local, and/or federal sources.

The NLS Catalog contains more than 281,000 book records, of which more than 74,000 are braille books and braille music scores and 207,000 are talking books.

Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may apply for service.

Product Highlights

Milestone 212 Ace Book Reader: If you are seeking a compact audio and DAISY player, then the Milestone 212 Ace is probably the perfect device for you! It fits in the palm of your hand and has 6 simple tactile buttons for ease of use. It can read aloud National Library Service (NLS), Audible.com, and DAISY downloaded books. It can also retain and play MP3, WAV, WMA and iTunes AAC audio files. You can also use this Milestone 212 Ace for recording quick notes to self or lectures that you attend.

New Victor Reader Stream: The New Generation Victor Reader Stream is smaller and smarter than its predecessor with new wireless capabilities that will open up the world to the blind and visually impaired. With the new Stream you can receive content from books and newspapers to podcasts and radio. It features a louder speaker, superior text to speech and improved recording. The high contrast tactile keypad and popular Victor Reader bookshelf navigation makes this the easiest to use hand-held player on the market. This new model has been designed to be user friendly, compact and lightweight.

Plextalk Pocket Portable Daisy/MP3 Player: This convenient book reader and recorder does not only allow you to playback digital talking books or textbooks, but also to record lectures at school. With a quick key press when recording, you can insert headers and save precious time. Besides offering the ability to read digital talking books, the PLEXTALK Pocket, now has a wireless LAN capability, which enables you to download or stream Web Radio and Podcasts even when you are away from your computer. With Web Radio and Podcasts at your fingertips, you can listen to your favorite news programs and music channels wherever, whenever you want.

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